Hen Harrier Day 2016 – Skydancer awareness!

Yesterday, I was greeted by Chris Packham and he told me to join the Hen Harrier campaign, I wasn’t really sure what he meant, so I took him literally (as someone with Asperger’s might). I decided to do my homework, research and then….start shouting. I am not unfamiliar with the Hen Harrier, because I live in Co Fermanagh – we have successfully balanced our populations and they seem to be thriving in our uplands, this is due to the work and dedication of conservation scientists, NGO’s and good partnerships between landowners and government; that’s the feeling I got as I read. Hen Harriers are mentioned in our house in reverent hushed tones, I have never seen a Hen Harrier, I would love to, but respect for something is not measured by sight alone. I love Hen Harriers,  I love the males ghost like presence, I watch videos and read about them, and have done for a long time. They are raptors and they are beautiful, they are called sky dancers and their mating ballet is a spectacle I have watched only from indoors but I found it mesmerising. They are a priority, endangered species and they need our help.

What I have been shielded from, up until these last few weeks, is the dark side of the Hen Harrier story. The hushed tones were for my benefit, so that I wouldn’t know their plight in other areas of the U.K. Connecting with Twitter through my blog and ‘meeting’ others, have opened my eyes and I am angry, I am so angry!! I don’t blame my exclusion from searching the Internet on my own, or my protective parents – I blame human greed and the desire to kill for sport.

I don’t want to go into the entire Hen Harrier chronicles in this post, but in my reading, my frustration roared – each and every hope for Hen Harrier stability had been shot from the sky. These dreams, these satellite tagged majestic, sky dancers are disappearing and they are disappearing on the upland grouse moors of  the U.K. (not N.I.). Why? Driven Grouse Shooting is why. Below are passionate pleas from Chris Packham on the real price of grouse shooting. As you can see, it makes for uncomfortable viewing, well it did for me anyway. As a young naturalist who is not only inspired by nature but also by the science of ecosystems and biodiversity- this is just wrong!!





As I read about each and every disappeared bird, each lifeless harrier found, each broken heart and each failure; my heart wept. I’m not normally very emotional about some things but this was hard for me to take.

I don’t want this post to be doom and gloom though, what I really want to do now, is something positive and I want you to help me. There are two things I would like help with. Mark Avery, who has been very kind and encouraging to me has this petition- please sign it, share it and tell everyone you know about it – please read here !

Secondly, if you live in Co Fermanagh or Co Antrim – please support Hen Harrier Day 2016!!! Hen Harrier Day is a public awareness campaign started by Birders Against Wildlife Crime  and is supported and organised here in N.I. by Northern ireland Raptor Study Group and it is gaining strength and momentum with each passing year. Actually, if you live anywhere in the UK, please support Hen Harrier Day!! If you come to the Fermanagh Event then you will see me and my family! Also, if you are on Twitter, please support and follow @Team4Nature300 – they do amazing campaigning work and have also shown me great encouragement.

Although Hen Harriers might quarter the fields of N.I., I don’t want to be smug about it, I want everyone to have them. When in the future I sit down with the next generation, I want to tell them that I and many more brilliant individuals (like you, if you want to) helped to bring about change. I really want this to have a happy ending, please help me.


A beautiful image of a female or immature (?) Hen Harrier in Antrim – than you Neal Warnock for letting me use his image




Thank you for reading




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15 Responses

  1. Dara
    I read most of your blog posts and of course I read this one with interest.

    Thanks for the kind words and for the plug for my e-petition.

    Let’s hope that many people come to Hen Harrier Day events across the UK on 6 and 7 August – I will be at Rainham Marshes on Saturday and Edale in the Peak District on Sunday 7 August.

    On a broader point, well done for all your blog posts. You’ve really got into it. I’m very impressed.

    best wishes


  2. Hello Dara
    Thank you for this uplifting blog. It’s beautifully written and really expresses the way I, (and so many others) feel. I hope it reaches lots of people because it’s sure to inspire them to take action.
    Like you, I love raptors and can’t tolerate their persecution. I live in the south east of England where we’re lucky enough to get some wintering Hen harriers.
    Enjoy Hen harrier day. I hope you’re rewarded with a sighting of one of these magnificent birds soon!
    Best wishes

  3. Really moving and interesting post , i have signed the petition , it was seeing a male Hen Harrier for the first time in the 80’s which awoke my interest in birding & nature.

  4. What a fantastic blog. So informative. I feel so privileged to be able to see harriers were i live but there isn’t a hen harrier event close to home but i’ve signed the petition and will encourage others to do so 🙂

    1. Thank you LJay. We have them here but in managed forests, I am hoping I can contact the Forestry Service so I can see them in a respectful way. Sorry you can’t make an event but thank you for signing the petition. Dara :))

      1. I’m blessed to live very near the Dee estuary Cheshire and many beautiful raptors like hen harriers, marsh harriers, barn owls, merlins etc…feed here. Birds of prey are so beautiful, hopefully many more will sign the petition too.

  5. As a non-resident of the UK I don’t have the right to sign, but have shared it on social media. A worthy cause. Fingers crossed!

  6. What a beautifully written blog. I have signed the petition and will look into where my nearest hen harrier event is being held. I have been lucky enough to see hen harriers, on Langholm Moor in the Scottish borders and this winter, while staying on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent. These beautiful birds and the other moorland wildlife denied their lives, the mountain hares, buzzards, sparrowhawks, gulls, weasels, stoats and so many more, just so men with guns can get their kicks, deserve our support and safekeeping. I hope to see the end of driven grouse shooting in my lifetime.

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